Memory is a fascinating phenomenon to me. Perhaps I notice my memory more these days as I move deeper into the process of aging and am aware that my memory is not as good as it once was. It is something that I have known for a very long time. When I was a youngster, my memory produced more reliable results than it did when I grew older. I can play my entire 4th grade piano recital piece from memory. I have been able to remember that piece of music since I memorized it as a child who was a year younger than our oldest grandchild. I have excellent recall of the 23rd Psalm, which I memorized around the same time. I can recite the Lord’s Prayer, the beginning of the Gettysburg Address, the opening of the Preamble of the Constitution, the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence and several other things I memorized as a child.

Things that I memorized at an older age are harder for me to recall. I’ve memorized countless passages of scripture to use in a single sermon. I could recite them when I delivered the sermon, but cannot do so a week later. I did, as an adult, memorize the birth narrative of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke and the prologue to the Gospel of John. I can recite both, but if you were to read along, you would discover that it isn’t the same kind of word for word accuracy with which I have memorized the Lord’s prayer or the verses of “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” I know the first verses to dozens and dozens of hymns, but can’t recall the second verses of a large percentage of them. I know the first lines of lots of show tunes, but cannot sing the whole song.

A couple of years ago I discovered that my memory of childhood items isn’t quite as accurate as I thought it was. Cleaning out my mother’s piano bench, I ran across the sheet music to that 4th grade piano recital song. I opened the music and discovered that I had forgotten a whole section of the song. Now I wonder if I remembered that part of the piece when I played it at my 4th grade recital, or if I played it the way I play it from memory now.

I know that my childhood memory is not flawless. It is either that or my brother didn’t grow up in the same house as I, or perhaps he is the biggest liar I ever met. We have divergent memories of the same events from our childhood. Perspective makes a bit difference when it comes to what is remembered.

Much of what I remember comes to me in words. I am a storyteller and I recall stories in words. I also have a fair memory for tune and verse. I can recall a lot of songs. Sometimes, however, memories come to me as bursts of emotion. I remember how something felt. It happened to me twice yesterday.

The first memory was triggered by a bike ride with our nearly seven-year-old granddaughter. We have sought opportunities to have our three oldest grandchildren visit us one at a time, so that we can give special attention to them individually and so that we can get to know them better. Yesterday, our granddaughter was brought to our home by her father on his way to work and stayed until he picked her up on his way home. She baked muffins with her grandmother, did crafts, played games and fixed lunch. She and I went on a six-mile bike ride. She was dressed in pink and as I rode my bike behind her I noticed the bits of blond hair sticking out of the back of her bicycle helmet. That glimpse triggered a strong memory of riding bikes with our daughter when she was young. Our daughter was an early riser as am I, so we would get up while her brother and mother were still sleeping. Sometimes we would go ride our bikes. We liked to go out for breakfast on our bikes. I would have her go in front, so I could keep my eyes on her and remain aware of exactly where she was at all times. I guess I stared at her blond hair poking out of her bike helmet. Yesterday as I watched our granddaughter I was flooded with very pleasant memories with all of the emotions included.

Later, in the evening, after she had gone home, I participated in a Zoom class with members of our church. Another member of the group reported spending much of the previous night in the emergency room. His heart had been racing and they rushed him into the ER and attached a heart monitor while doctors and others scrambled to figure out the best way to provide treatment. Eventually he was allowed to go home, but instructed to rest until his appointment with a heart specialist which will occur this morning. He didn’t tell us many details of his experience, but asked for our prayers. As he described his experience, however, it triggered my memory of when my wife was admitted to the hospital with a heart rate of 185 in Atrial Fibrillation. I remembered how frightened I was. I remembered the next couple of weeks and the panic we had during her treatment. Eventually the treatment was successful, but I was as frightened as I have ever been along the way. Hearing my friend describe his condition, which is not the same, triggered that memory and emotion flooded over me as surely as it did when I was watching our granddaughter earlier in the day.

Memory is a gift. The collective memories of our people is a gift. We are fortunate to know a bit of our history and of the things that hold us together as a people. Recall of emotions is a precious experience. the older I become, the more memories I have to recall. There is great comfort in knowing that I have much to remember twinged with a bit of fear because I know how much have already forgotten. Sometimes, however, just the right event or experience will trigger a memory. For that I am deeply grateful.

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